This week, a choice of activities that dig into the philosophical potential of bridges.
Philosophy of Bridges
Last week was a rare one without a bulletin, as I (Tom) was spending some time in North East England after running some INSET there. I’m always bowled over by the beauty and size of the area’s bridges, particularly in Newcastle, where six span the famous River Tyne within short distance of each other.
Idea 1: Which Bridge Do You Like Best?
A great way to get children using the word “because”. Either set up four photos on the floor, and get them to vote with their feet, or print out more photos than there are pupils and scatter, asking them to pick up one that they like, ready to justify.
Download a gallery of bridge photos here.
Idea 2: What Makes a Bridge?
If I stand on two books, am I now a bridge?
If a troll lives under a table, is the table a bridge?
Idea 3: The Unfinished Bridge?
Look at the picture below. Is this a bridge? If so, when did it become a bridge? When construction began? When it started to look like a bridge? When it got to a certain point?
If not, when will it become a bridge? At half-way? At completion? This is a variation on the Sorites Paradox.
Idea 4: Weaving the Bridge (from the Philosophy Man archive)
P4C practitioner Pat Hannam drew our attention to this video stimulus. Two villages on opposite sides of a river in Peru rebuild the rope suspension bridge between them every year, as they have since the 15th century. It’s a beautiful piece of sustainable engineering which brings the whole community together.
At first, it seems there’s no ambiguity, tension or conflict of ideas: just a great example of collaboration, sustainability, community etc. You can add some salt to the sugar by putting them in the story. They are the villagers, and someone arrives from the government and says, “We can build a steel bridge that will last for 50 years. It will take cars as well as pedestrians, so it will be much better.
You can do other things instead of wasting your time building something that only lasts a year.” Would they want the bridge to be built? Now you have a clash of concepts: modernity vs tradition, efficiency versus community, collaboration, sustainability.
Tom and Jason
PS: P4C itself is used by many as a bridge between school and home, and there’s no better way to do this than Sticky Questions. It’s arguably the easiest way to extend Philosophy beyond the school gates as children take home a question on their jumper each week to discuss with parents. Learn more at www.thephilosophyman.com/stickyquestions